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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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154 Responses

  1. tannenburg
    tannenburg February 20, 2008 at 12:53 pm |

    Advice? Well…the only thing that seems to work with me is taking the subject out of the context and analyzing it. For instance – would he think that a young boy able to consent to sex with an older man or woman? If he takes what he dislikes about Hillary Clinton and places those personality characteristics on a hypothetical male candidate, do those personality characteristics become acceptable?

  2. Kristen
    Kristen February 20, 2008 at 12:55 pm |

    Okay…for the helpful advice (rather than suggesting divorce/random kicks in the tuchas) I’d suggest the follow which works with some limited results on my dear male friends whom I love enough to try for:

    1. Remind him as often as possible that women are people. Use the term “female person”. My freshman soc. prof told me years ago that using the word people or person actually changes a persons intuitive response. For example if you ask a poll question “Would you elect a black as president?” more people would say no than if you asked “Would you elect a black person as president?” Sucks, but true.

    2. Share personal stories. You and I have undoubtedly had hundreds of experiences where we’ve felt dehumanized. Talk about it. Explain how painful it is by sharing your hurt. Also, if you have their permission, talk about other women he’s known that have experienced what he is criticizing. I was fortunate enough not be sexually assaulted as a teenager, but in my circle of friends, I know several women who have been and a few who are open about their experience.

    3. Ask why. Prepare for an uncomfortable conversation where he isn’t going to want to answer the question. But don’t give up. Somewhere in there is an experience he’s extrapolating from. If you find it, you can point out how that experience is not representative. Sure some women act badly…but some of every group acts badly.

    4. Make fun of him. Men hate being the butt of joke. Seriously. Hate. So when he says something sexist and you don’t have time for items 1-3…go for poking fun at his lack of enlightenment. For example “HRC is such a power hungry Bitch.” “Yeah, and politicians never want power…Nooo….and those pantsuits are so unflattering…we could never elect a woman who doesn’t wear a skirt.” Followed by an eyeroll.

  3. Abby
    Abby February 20, 2008 at 1:00 pm |

    Thank you! I have the same types of problems with my husband and I’d love to get a dialogue going about this. I don’t know if I’ve been particularly sucessful at it, but just constantly challenging assumptions, maybe presenting a point of view he might not have thought about before, seems to help. On the other hand, I sometimes get accused of “thinking too much about that” or “reading too much into it”. It’s an uphill battle, but there are little victories every day!

  4. Delaney
    Delaney February 20, 2008 at 1:02 pm |

    Well, couldn’t everyone who is involved in politics at that level be qualified as power-hungry? It’s the old double standard, just like the stud vs. slut rigamarole. It’s *always* okay for men to be ambitious and long for power, but women who do are “witchy” or, in this case, “bitchy.” I would (ever-so-nicely) ask if Hillary is power-hungry, then what would that make Bill? He seemed to enjoy his, ahem, position. Just remind him that the human race is competetive in general, so why should women be any different?

    Also, when you say “extremely underaged girl,” how young are we talking? Because that’s a little disturbing. Keep chipping away though!

  5. Kate Hutchinson
    Kate Hutchinson February 20, 2008 at 1:04 pm |

    My marriage has similar issues, but I work very hard at enlightening my husband. One, I read a lot of feminist books and leave them in places where he picks them up and browses through them. We have a lot of debates about issues of equality, whether it’s women in the workplace or how a woman dresses can affect people’s impressions of her.

    I try to set an example myself, and I have brought him to a lot of places to show him a woman’s side of things. He’s sat through a pelvic exam with me, and come with me to Planned Parenthood when I had no health insurance. He reads my blog and will follow links to articles on relevant topics.

    But one thing I do most is this: When he expresses a sentiment that is discriminatory, I don’t let it float. I jump right on it and explain that I don’t tolerate that viewpoint, make him explain himself, and give examples of why what he just said was unfair/sexist/etc.

    I find that the more we talk, the easier it is to show him how discriminatory some of his viewpoints are. Talking is always a good thing. Good Luck!

  6. Siri
    Siri February 20, 2008 at 1:06 pm |

    I’m struggling with a similar dilemma. My husband insisted I keep my own last name when we married because he “didn’t want to be with the kind of woman who would give up her identity.” Yet, at times he can be harshly judgmental about women – holding them to higher standards than men, it seems to me. Plus, he sometimes dismisses sexist behavior, attributing it to some other cause.

    My way of dealing with this has been to just chip away at him, subtly in most cases, and then occasionally really thoroughly hammer home my point. It’s a fine line to walk when you’re trying not to put someone you love on the defensive. If it were anyone else, I’d take off the gloves completely, but I know that in his heart my husband is a feminist.

  7. wren
    wren February 20, 2008 at 1:11 pm |

    Not really on topic, but does anyone listen to Dan Savage’s podcast? He rather disturblingly suggested to a caller that her friend might have been lying about being raped.

  8. Olive
    Olive February 20, 2008 at 1:15 pm |

    Yeah. Some stereotypes of women are true, it’s just that they’re also true of men. Because I’m so used to the idea that women are stupid and emotional, I can recognize when I’m being stupid and emotional and say “leave me alone, I’m being stupid and emotional and I want to cool off.” My ex-boyfriend could come up with these incredible contorted explanations for how rational his completely stupid emotions were (the most common one was to invent a social norm out of thin air- “It’s just disrespectful to leave soda cans in the living room!” when he’s mad at the roommate who drinks soda for some other reason). I got really, really sick of that dynamic.

  9. Mike
    Mike February 20, 2008 at 1:17 pm |

    My girlfriend just sent me this. I hope she meant that other people are going what we sometimes go through. I would like to just speak on behalf of the guy side. It means a lot that you think we are still “good guys” even if we don’t understand immediately how you feel. Truth we just don’t know. I would like to think most women could have a conversation with me and not want to kick my face, but I also realize that sometimes I say things that are hurtful that I really just don’t understand. Case in point. I once asked her why women would get exceedingly drunk at a bar if they have been raped in the past when they were drunk. To me it was a normal precaution to take, but to her she thought I was saying its a womans fault if she gets raped. She was VERY upset with me. But after awhile she explained that only 4% of rapes are by a stranger. I didn’t know that. So she realized from my perspective it can be tough.

    A second thing to keep in mind is that feminism isn’t a one size fits all and it might take us “good guys” who are willing to learn sometime. My girlfriend hates playboy, but likes she show “girls Next Door” on E! about playboy bunnies. You can understand how that can confuse me as someone trying to listen and learn.

    Don’t cut your men any slack on your views, but do cut him some slack that it might take time to understand your views.

  10. Roxie
    Roxie February 20, 2008 at 1:22 pm |

    This is awesome. I’ve always wondered how to do the same with my male friends.

  11. canto_xii
    canto_xii February 20, 2008 at 1:29 pm |

    Something I find very interesting about my boyfriend is that, since he has grown up in this culture and only started really paying attention to equality in the past few years (since we’ve been together), he will say things that are sexist without even realizing that they are. I always call him on it and usually he gets angry…not with me, but with himself for not realizing what he really meant, and makes a conscious effort to change his way of thinking/speaking. Thinking in equal terms is just like starting (or breaking) any other habit. Just give it time and persist.

  12. Rika
    Rika February 20, 2008 at 1:35 pm |

    Well… I usually just go off on a feminist rant when something sexist is said, and grill them on what they said so they can’t just ignore me. Usually I’m better at logic and debate than they are (sounds kind of mean, but it’s been true), so I end up winning.

    I’m getting sick of having boyfriends who I have to convince to be feminists, though. For once I want one who I don’t have to explain the basic feminist theory to. They always want to impress me with their “chivalry” and then I have to explain why I don’t appreciate it. Seriously, I went on a date with a guy once, who just had knee surgery and so was on crutches. I held the door to the restaurant for him, but he had the gall to say, “You can go ahead.” I said something along the lines of, “Screw that, I’m not the one on crutches.” I had to explain to him later that he was pretty much implying that I was more incapable of holding a door than he was. As if I’m more crippled for being a woman than he is for being on crutches!

    Sorry, that was a bit off-topic, I guess.

  13. D.N. Nation
    D.N. Nation February 20, 2008 at 1:46 pm |

    My husband is a great guy

    Hmm.

    Or most recently, that Hillary Clinton is a power hungry bitch.

    FIFY.

  14. km
    km February 20, 2008 at 1:46 pm |

    As a guy who’s trying to overcome the same programming, I think Kate and Kristen have good advice. Just talk to him about it whenever you think he’s being sexist about something. I’d also add that you’ll have to be patient. It took months for my ex-gf’s comments really to sink in and open my eyes to the ways I was sexist without realizing it. I’m still working on it and imagine I will be for a while. Having him read this or other feminist blogs on a regular basis is a good idea too.

  15. tannenburg
    tannenburg February 20, 2008 at 1:52 pm |

    Oh, and a couple of other words of advice for the male half of the equation:

    1) Don’t take it personally. If someone labels attitude or opinion as being sexist it doesn’t automatically equal an accusation that you are sexist.

    2) Shut the hell up about topics with which you have no information or experience. This is especially hard for me – I have an irresistible urge to pontificate on topics with which I have only scant knowledge (a vice born of my over-education.) A corollary is, of course, to listen to your significant other’s statements instead of just mulishly pouting.

    And a general statement – people are always works in progress. Some of us may require more polishing than others, but we are never truly finished.

  16. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus February 20, 2008 at 1:53 pm |

    One approach to consider is also looking at yourself (I mean this in the general sense) and think about the approaches that worked in getting you to rethink your own programming.

    I suggest this because the fact of the matter is that as flawed human beings, we all have some degree of negative cultural programming that we have to deal with. I’ve found that I can “get through” to some people when I use myself as an example. I think this approach (which, admittedly, doesn’t always work) has the appeal of humanizing the person you’re dealing with.

    So, when I say something like, “Well, I used to feel similarly, but…” and then explained how and why I changed my perspective, that can help create a climate in which the person I’m talking to is being held responsible for his or her behavior but at the same feels a little more open to talking with someone who also is willing to admit his or her own flaws. I think it can more concretely illustrate how actual people can change.

  17. Emily
    Emily February 20, 2008 at 2:01 pm |

    Siri said:

    My husband insisted I keep my own last name when we married because he “didn’t want to be with the kind of woman who would give up her identity.”

    So he’d rather be married to the kind of woman who does exactly what her husband wants? And that’s different… how?

    You may have phrased it poorly, but the irony there was too much to simply let go.

  18. Pizza Diavola
    Pizza Diavola February 20, 2008 at 2:09 pm |

    I find that analogy–coming up with parallel examples, taking his line of thought further to see if it collapses in on itself–and keeping a cool head are persuasive. Familiarity with statistics also helps, too, in the event of rape and sexual assault discussions, because it’s too easy for people to dismiss your stories as unrepresentative anecdotes–it’s an uncomfortable topic and they like to pretend it doesn’t happen. It gets tiring but every step of progress is worth it.

    e.g. with the Clinton is a power hungry, ambitious bitch:

    Ok, well, assuming she is, why are any of those bad qualities? She’s running for president, so of course she’s ambitious. More importantly, do you think she’d do a good job as president? What does being ambitious mean? Clearly, she has a vision for how she wants to run the country and fix its various problems, so maybe someone who’s ambitious and won’t accept the status quo is necessary for that.

    And, of course, there’s the “why do you think anyone else is running?” approach, too. They’re not ambitious? It’s the freaking Presidency of the United States and primary season is almost two years long. You have to be ambitious to even think of running, and even more ambitious to slog through the entire two, grueling years. I am always surprised (well, not really) to hear people attack Clinton for being ambitious when I think the power-hungry, ambitious labels fit Romney a hell of a lot better.

  19. SoulAsylum
    SoulAsylum February 20, 2008 at 2:11 pm |

    Wait…why is is misogynist to assume that underage (I assume that’s under 16 in most states) girls can consent to sex? Isn’t that actually assuming a lot of autonomy on the part of younger females?

    And I think most guys (at least most I know) would freely admit that when they were around 14 they would have fully consented to sex with a hot female teacher.

  20. Pizza Diavola
    Pizza Diavola February 20, 2008 at 2:12 pm |

    I’m getting sick of having boyfriends who I have to convince to be feminists, though. For once I want one who I don’t have to explain the basic feminist theory to.

    Seconded!

  21. yazikus
    yazikus February 20, 2008 at 2:17 pm |

    I have alot of similar issues with my husband. I have found, however, that often he has no idea what he is saying is sexist.. It’s like the patriarchal autopilot.
    Recently, he was saying that having a tidy woman in his parents house would help his mom keep the place clean (it is usually very dirty).
    I reminded him right then that his dad has now retired and his mother works full time. He was aghast at the idea he could assume that it was only his mother’s duty to clean, and has since corrected his thoughts and statements on the subject.
    Don’t keep men ignorant, I have faith that when informed they (or at least some) will understand, and make the right decisions.

  22. Randeep
    Randeep February 20, 2008 at 2:21 pm |

    Abby, I also get the “you’re thinking about this too much,” or, the other night, “why do you keep reading this depressing feminist news when it’s obvious that people who think that way (anti-choice, anti-woman) are assholes.”

    Before I make him sound like too much of a jerk, that’s his attitude about a lot of controversial things – he was raised Catholic and although he became more open to the world, he still finds it really hard to talk about things that were formerly taboo or not “polite” conversation.

    I think a lot of the time guys (who are willing to date feminists who are not shy about pointing out when someone is being sexist) have good intentions but then get embarrassed about their cultural blocks – with my partner this embarrassment with himself often translates as frustration/anger, but he usually calms down with an hour or so to think and me pointing out that there are multiple reasons to care about feminism – the fact that patriarchy damages his ability to be caring and respectful, to be regarded outside of traditional male roles, as well as my position in the world and that of his sister, mother, etc.

    This is an interesting topic and I am glad there is a dialogue going about it.

  23. SarahMC
    SarahMC February 20, 2008 at 2:23 pm |

    This is such a good topic! I am relieved to learn that other feminist women are out there dealing with the same partner-issues I am.

  24. human
    human February 20, 2008 at 2:40 pm |

    My situation is a little different in that it’s a friend, not a boyfriend/husband, who recently said something really offensive and sexist to me. I am trying to decide if I want to forgive him and if so, how exactly to address it further. Or what.

    Basically, we were talking about a sexism issue in a newspaper article and he disagreed with me so he said, “Well, you can be the angry feminist if you want to.” I immediately stopped talking. Later, I told him he had been really offensive and he apologized meekly. He didn’t realize I was still angry with him until a week later when I didn’t want to invite him over to my house when some mutual friends were coming over.

    I’m so tired of being dismissed like that, verbally slapped like that, by people who are supposed to be friends. And yet if I stand up for myself I have to deal with the fear that some of those mutual friends will think I’m making a big deal of nothing. (So far, not a problem, fortunately, but still a fear.) Well, it wasn’t nothing.

    It wasn’t nothing, but on the other hand, this guy seems to try — and he seems to understand some of the basics of feminism. He gets it, but he doesn’t seem to feel bound by any obligation to act according to what he knows, if it’s inconvenient for him, or if he doesn’t feel like it. I guess this is where I remind myself that even if he is a work in progress, it’s not MY obligation to fix him.

    I am just so tired of losing friends for this shit.

  25. hyrax
    hyrax February 20, 2008 at 2:44 pm |

    Don’t cut your men any slack on your views, but do cut him some slack that it might take time to understand your views.

    This was (to my mind) a good way to put this. I’ve been in an interracial relationship and it took some good attention and patience on both sides for us to get some basic stuff. The most flattering thing the other person said to me re working on racism was something like “I work on this with you b/c I think you WANT to get it and CAN get it”.

    I’ve also dated guys who in retrospect I don’t think really were interested in getting where I’m coming from, and that’s a totally different dynamic.

  26. Melissa
    Melissa February 20, 2008 at 2:48 pm |

    My girlfriend hates playboy, but likes she show “girls Next Door” on E! about playboy bunnies. You can understand how that can confuse me as someone trying to listen and learn.

    In one instance, women are objectified as sex objects. In the other, these women are given a more human face and we can (sort of) get to know who they are. i’d say that’s pretty different.

  27. Ashlie
    Ashlie February 20, 2008 at 2:54 pm |

    I am relieved to learn that other feminist women are out there dealing with the same partner-issues I am.

    Me too! My boyfriend didn’t really know anything about feminism until we started dating and it has been a struggle to get rid of some of the deeply ingrained stereotypes. We’ve had a lot of discussions about assumptions he has made in the past (especially when he said that abortion should be legal but not easy. That was a very long discussion, and I nearly popped a vein but he eventually got it).

    I agree with other posters that jokes work! Now whenever he (or one of his friends) says something sexist, I just respond with, “Yea, I hate women too.” We laugh about it and its a good way to get him to really think about what he’s saying.

  28. Kristen
    Kristen February 20, 2008 at 2:56 pm |

    “Well, you can be the angry feminist if you want to.”

    I’ve gotten this from time to time…my canned response is to laugh and say and “Okay, I’ll be the angry feminist and you be the bastard misogynist and we’ll all play the who’s not an asshole.” But as you may have noticed….I like sarcasm…and swearing…I’m a sarcastic swearer…which is (according to my boss) not ladylike…so practice at your own peril.

  29. Faith
    Faith February 20, 2008 at 3:03 pm |

    As someone else already mentioned, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has problems with this particular issue. I’ve been trying for months to get my partner to understand that calling a woman a “bitch” or a “slut” (or any other sexist insult) in a derogatory manner is absolutely always uncalled for. He absolutely is by far the most enlightened man I’ve ever encountered in regards to feminism, but he still drives me crazy at times. I have no real advice other than to simply stick to your guns and -always- call him out on his sexism until it hopefully computes.

  30. Mike
    Mike February 20, 2008 at 3:04 pm |

    In one instance, women are objectified as sex objects. In the other, these women are given a more human face and we can (sort of) get to know who they are. i’d say that’s pretty different.

    Thank you for not prefacing that with something like “You can’t be serious” or “You’ve got to be kidding me” I guess that makes a little more sense although I don’t understand how one point of playboy culture can be admonished and the other celebrated. Its all from the same guy. But again the way you described it made me feel more like it was being explained rather than I was stupid for not knowing it already.

  31. DAS
    DAS February 20, 2008 at 3:08 pm |

    My ex-boyfriend could come up with these incredible contorted explanations for how rational his completely stupid emotions were – Olive

    See, I’m different than your boyfriend … my completely stupid emotions are all entirely rational and my contorted explanations of said rationality are actually quite credible ;)

    *

    Well…the only thing that seems to work with me is taking the subject out of the context and analyzing it. For instance – would he think that a young boy able to consent to sex with an older man or woman? – Tannenburg

    In general I would agree with you — change the identifiers and see whether the position is still the same: if changing around names, genders, etc., changes the response of whether whatever action is ok, there is obviously “namism”, “sexism” etc.ism going on here … and it’s laid bare and if he really is sincerely a feminist, he’ll come to change his views.

    The problem with this approach, though, is sometimes our society actually has multiple standards and layers of sexism built it. What do people really think of a boy having sex with a grown woman? Maybe with pre/peri-pubescent children, people would say that’s wrong boy/woman or girl/man. OTOH, even though a 15 year old girl is a lot more “biologically” mature than a 15 year old boy (I don’t buy that they are more mature in any other way, in spite of what people say), if anything our society would say about the 15 yo girl/45 yo man relationship “that’s so wrong” (although they’d blame the “Lolita” as much as the man … and yes, I am using the term “Lolita” with some degree of irony here having read the book) while they would be calling a 15 yo boy who had sex with a 45 yo “sexy teacher” a “stud” (which victimizes him further because he may very well feel hurt, coerced, but he has to project this image that society says he won some sort of prize, even if he didn’t want that “prize”).

    So arguably depending on what you mean by “young child”, it could be a case where the man in question doesn’t have a double standard whereas many other people do … he just has a very skeevy single standard. OTOH, what’s the Anatole France quote about the law’s majestic equality? Sometimes (c.f. affirmative action), it is actually, in the grand scheme of things more “enlightened” to have a double standard. In some ways the reason society assumes the boy above is a “stud” while the girl isn’t, is due to the power dynamics: even a 15 yo boy has certain privaleges of gender that a 15 yo girl certainly does not. So maybe it is safe to assume (as safe as such assumptions can be) that she was more victimized (as if it’s a competition).

    I guess, though, the key point, is to get the conversation started — because even if he just ends up giving contorted explanations of how irrational his points of view are, he’s at least thinking about things and will, if he is really a feminist, start thinking his way out of the sexism. OTOH, if you just tell him “you are wrong about X, don’t be so sexist” … well that’s just confirming stereotypes about feminist scolds, isn’t it?

  32. harlemjd
    harlemjd February 20, 2008 at 3:13 pm |

    when you say your husband thinks underage girls can sometimes consent to sex, does that mean that he disagrees with age of consent laws? I would start by talking with him about the practical consequenses of changing those laws. (that statutory rape would become impossible to prosecute) Mention that statutory rape is useful in prosecuting forcible rape of minors (because you can convict them of something just by proving the sex).

    Once he’s come around to seeing statutory rape laws as good things, (even if he still sees them as unnecessary for his imaginary totally-mature teens who want adult men) ask him why he thinks underage girls would want to have sex with adult men. Then ask him why he thinks adult men want to have sex with underage girls.

  33. Midgetqueen
    Midgetqueen February 20, 2008 at 3:16 pm |

    Great topic! One I’ve also wondered on, as my own boyfriend is (usually) great, but there *are* those hiccups that need worked out.

    In my experience, the hardest hurdle has been *not* being silent and/or second-guessing myself in the rare occasions that he says/does something sexist. Express, discuss, dissect–and what seems to work best for me is to have examples. Cite if you have ‘em, hunt down if you don’t yet.

    I also don’t just take this kind of discussions on an as-they-come basis, a defense-as-they-come-up type thing, but more as a life-long-learning together aproach. Read books together, read blogs together, have call-out-the-crap-in-ads/tv shows/news/movies/etc contests together. Whatever works.

    And yes, to second other comments, humor works like gangbusters.

  34. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp February 20, 2008 at 3:19 pm |

    Seems this is a two-part question. First part being, “What are some possible approaches for eroding sexism in the people we love?” Second part being, “Which approach, if any, is best for me to use with a given individual?” I don’t know if anyone can reliably answer the second part.

    I tend to take the I-statement approach. “I feel angry when I hear you call Hillary Clinton a ‘power-hungry bitch,’ because I don’t hear you criticize male politicians the same way and I suspect this is about Clinton’s gender more than anything else. Women are often dressed down for behavior that is deemed acceptable in men. That makes all women’s lives more challenging — including mine.” If the person gets defensive, claims it was “just a joke,” etc., then we go from there with the sexism bingo card.

  35. DAS
    DAS February 20, 2008 at 3:22 pm |

    Well, couldn’t everyone who is involved in politics at that level be qualified as power-hungry? – Delaney

    Except that nowadays the neo-feudalists in the media have convinced everyone that being “power-hungry” or even playing politics is unseemly … a presidential asperant almost has to pretend that s/he really doesn’t want to be president: there is this whole dance one has to perform (and, it would be OT for me to go into how anti-democratic the whole “politics is unseemly” line of thinking is, but it is what it is at this point).

    As in other cases where women get called “bitches” while the “same” behavior is celebrated in men (as opposed to some of the clear slut v. stud type double standards), the fact is that the behavior really isn’t the same. Some of these “social dances” about how to be ambitious yet hide your ambition, how to be assertive without being aggressive, etc., are very much a matter of social training. And up until very, very recently (as in, I am barely over 30 and when I was growing up the double standard in socialization was very, very much alive, but I don’t see it so much with kids today … a lot of it is that nowadays both boys and girls get a lot of exposure to athletics, whereas when I was a kid, while athletic girls had plenty of opportunities to be involved in sports, even us nerdy boys got forced into sports at some level: the increased equality here is, btw, why Title 9 is extremely important!) if you were a boy you got very well socialized into how to be assertive, how to be ambitious yet hide it, etc., while girls did not receive this sort of social training.

    The result is that women are indeed not as able to perform the social dance of pretending not to be ambitious when they are, etc. And “bitchy” is the offensively sexist term used to describe the lack of clothing for ambition, in this case.

    Perhaps, as suggested above, the question is indeed to ask what is it that makes HRC a “power hungry bitch” and to inquire how this is different than male politicians that do similar things. But to some degree the answer may very well be that male politicians are better at hiding their ambition due to differences in socialization. As I pointed out before, a real exploration of the sexism involved will reveal many layers of sexism in our society that go beyond the double standards held by the “feminist” man who still has sexist views. And maybe those standards are indeed not so double after all, but rather reflect larger sexist aspects of how certain things unfold in our society.

  36. 1five9
    1five9 February 20, 2008 at 3:22 pm |

    To take it a step beyond blatant sexist comments, we’re dealing with some things now because I’m pregnant. He would totally stay home with the kid; he’s all about parenting being a time effort, etc. He sees the sexism in the Hillary coverage.

    But I don’t think he’s going to get it all and it affects me personally. Right now, the baby’s last name is an issue. Truthfully, we both want the kid to have our respective last names. But I tend to think it’s not the same for him. I’m thinking of this baggage of patriarchy that comes from the tradition of kids have their father’s names. If the kid would take my name, I have to deal with the crap from conservative friends if the kid has my name (I already get it for not having “taken his” when we got married). It feels like “my” issue to decide.

    (Sorry, I re-wrote that several times and I’m still not sure it takes sense.)

  37. D.N. Nation
    D.N. Nation February 20, 2008 at 3:47 pm |

    This issue was brought up the other night in the Nation household. Well, sort of.

    Me: Hey, do I respect your rights as a woman?
    Her: What?
    Me: Do I respect your rights as a woman? Am I enough of a feminist? What can I work on?
    Her: Dude, whatever.
    Me: No, really. Be absolutely honest with me.
    Her: I am. You’re fine. Whatever.

    Mrs. Nation is an honest person, so I believe her.

    I think because it’s the right thing to do is a tough reason to nail down for a man looking to liberate himself, but so is this sort of attitude:

    Great topic! One I’ve also wondered on, as my own boyfriend is (usually) great, but there *are* those hiccups that need worked out.

    …which could be viewed that he’s some Eliza dumbass who just needs noodling and prodding to be a full human. Which is patronizing, as right as it may be. Sorry. Guy’s perspective.

    Why should I be liberated? Because it makes my wife happy. Because I’m a better person. And I shouldn’t want cookies, and my wife is right to be suspicious that I’m asking for them. But giving a crap natch, just as it is for most things, is a challenge. But don’t thank me. Debate me.

  38. Emily
    Emily February 20, 2008 at 3:49 pm |

    1five9:

    Right now, the baby’s last name is an issue. Truthfully, we both want the kid to have our respective last names. But I tend to think it’s not the same for him. I’m thinking of this baggage of patriarchy that comes from the tradition of kids have their father’s names. If the kid would take my name, I have to deal with the crap from conservative friends if the kid has my name (I already get it for not having “taken his” when we got married). It feels like “my” issue to decide.

    YES. YES. I am not even married yet and this is coming up because we both know we want to have kids someday. I sort of feel like the work I have to do means I get to choose, but you’re right, I also feel like it’s my issue and my deal.

    I am trying to convince him that having the kids have different last names isn’t a big deal.

  39. foxglove
    foxglove February 20, 2008 at 3:51 pm |

    I think one of the hardest things with sexism is tradition. My boyfriend and I are very serious and have been talking about marriage recently, which led to a huge argument about the name issue. I explained to him that expecting the woman to take the man’s name is sexist and offensive to me, and he agreed that it was indeed sexist, but that he liked the tradition anyway because it “symbolized making a family.” How do you combat someone who sees your point and agrees that it’s sexist and wrong but still goes ahead with their point anyway? We eventually got it worked out, but it’s still a sore spot and a source of confusion. Has anyone else experienced the “Well, yeah, it’s sexist but that’s just how things are done — it’s normal and nice and wholesome this way” argument?

  40. Ashley
    Ashley February 20, 2008 at 4:00 pm |

    Aww, thanks for putting me on the front page. I feel I need to respond to several of these comments, so this’ll get long:

    Kristin (2) #3 is a lot of fun, and I’ve had that conversation many times. It seems to help…

    Delaney (4) YOu remember that post a few months back about the 10 year old and the 2 26 year old guys? Yeah, that was a big fight, and he realized in about 2 hours that he was being a total nitwit and just parroting the media. Of course, he’s still convinced that he’s an independent thinker and never mouths what he’s heard his whole life. We’re working on that…

    Olive (8) Yeah, I do much the same thing. There are times when I’m PMSing, and I’ll admit it. Thankfully the husband man has stopped suggesting I’m PMSing when I’m actually just pissed at him.

    Mike (9) Thanks for your input.

    Rika (12) The problem with the logic/debate thing is that, unfortunately, he’s better at it than me. This means he’s REALLY good at twisting logic around to make the craziest things sound normal. He’s gotten better at that, thankfully, and hasn’t done it in almost a year.

    Pizza Diavola (18) My response to his Clinton attacks are often “So’s Obama,” because it’s true. Both are egotistical and power hungry. You’d have to be to get to their position. That seems to have helped quite a bit.

    SoulAsylum (19) The girl in question was 10. The guys were 26.

    harlemjd (32) I somewhat misrepresented the situation. This was the case a few months back in London where 2 26 year olds raped a drunk 10 year old. I believe partof the defense was that she “looked 16.” My husband, for about 15 minutes, was saying that it wasn’t their fault because she looked older and maybe she could have consented. That one ended with me comparing her to our 9 year old neice. Cuz yeah, 10, not so different from 9. He took it back and now realizes how horrible an idea he was espousing, and I know he didn’t really think it. He was just mouthing the idea that women are deceptive and trying to trap men with rape. It was an unthinking reflex which has thankfully been stomped out.

    Hot Tramp (34) THankfully he usually doesn’t go to the bingo card. It happens VERY rarely.

  41. Ashley
    Ashley February 20, 2008 at 4:07 pm |

    A bit more about the situation:

    I swear, my husband isn’t an asshole. He’s just a white male who’s grown up in this society. While he is overall enlightened, progressive, and totally wonderful, he has some bad reflexes that I’m trying to stomp out. He has, thankfully, gotten a lot better in recent years.

    (In comparison, I’ll admit that I have some racist knee jerk reactions. I’m white, I was raised by racists. At one time I actually thought “dothead” was an acceptable term! I think some of the assumptions I’ve made, some of the things I’ve thought, are absolutely terrible and I don’t embrace them by any means. But unfortunately I have that whole white privilege thing going on and all I can do is try to root it out where I see it. Actually, reading feminist blogs have helped me alot as I finally understand such concepts as white privilege, and I have become significantly less racist in the past few years because of it.)

    To put it in perspective, this man is VERY sympathetic and understanding when it comes to rape and sexual violence. I unfortunately came out of denial about my rape in the beginning of our relationship, and the only reason I’m sane now is because of how he helped me. We weren’t intimate for about 6 months because I couldn’t be, he’d stop at any moment if I needed it, etc. etc. Heck, he even cut out one of his best friends after said friend sexually assaulted a woman for shits and giggles. He really is trying, but some of it is so ingrained that he doesn’t even know when he’s being a sexist pig. And as I’ve said, he’s gotten better.

  42. james
    james February 20, 2008 at 4:07 pm |

    foxglove,
    I encountered that a lot, usually I would say something along the lines of “well thats fine and dandy thats the way its been done but we’re talking about you and I here and thats now how we should do it”. Its a tough one though if you have someone who realizes whats wrong yet still embraces it and moves forward. My sister faces what youre talking about constantly, its really hard for her because her husband is as well educated and spoken as she, has an in studying gender equality issues but still chooses to say and do things that are patently sexist. I’ve verbally sparred with him quite a few times, using things like stats and so on doesnt usually work as he also knows the stats, where they came from and is capable of intelligently attacking them. How do you break through with a person like that? They “know” all the information, agree in general but do and say outrageous things.

  43. Midgetqueen
    Midgetqueen February 20, 2008 at 4:08 pm |

    Nation:

    Mea culpa, I was dashing out a response at work, between writing obituaries (I work at a funeral home which is both off-topic and a madly interesting job!)–didn’t feel I had the time to fine-tune wording–but of COURSE he is fully and wonderfully human.

  44. Ashley
    Ashley February 20, 2008 at 4:09 pm |

    Foxglove, what worked for us was that we did a lot of traditional things for our own reason. For instance, I REALLY wanted to get rid of my name, partially because my parents are assholes (see comment above about racists) and partially because it’s super rare and you google me you find my uncle the murderer. Yes, I did the traditional thing and took his name, but it was a very informed choice and for my own reasons.

    I don’t think you can argue against that, because something sexist is not “normal and nice and wholesome.” All you can do is make decisions that are comfortable for you using your own reasons. And if your fiance has a problem with that, tough.

  45. RKMK
    RKMK February 20, 2008 at 4:18 pm |

    I got into it with my new boy (who is otherwise adorable and sweet) about Hillary because he said that he thought it was essentially giving Bill Clinton a third term in office. I was completely taken aback, and then exploded, explaining that the only way that position made any possible sense was if you were working from the assumption that women are mindless automatons, puppets for the expedience of their husbands, and that, actually, Hillary is an actual living breathing person, a lawyer and Senator, with an educated and experienced brain of her own, and sorry, sweetheart, Hillary would be president, not Bill, and they are, in fact, two separate people.

    He tried to defend himself with some claims of reservations of being uncomfortable with “dynasties”, wherewith I then pointed out that the Roosevelts, the Kennedys, even the Bushes enjoyed political dynastys that were welcomed reasonably fondly by the public when it was a bunch of men enjoying the renown of their fathers/cousins/uncles, and only now it was becoming such a cause for concern because of marriage. (I recently resigned from my job, and had been reading Shakesville post-Super Tuesday, and had had it up to here with some of these so called “arguments”). He conceded the point.

    The fight continued again, however, last Friday when we went out with some of his friends, and we got into it regarding Obama vs. Clinton. They were feeding me some tired old lines, and then “battleaxe” came up to describe Clinton. I lost it again, saying that considering the candidates had a 97% similar voting record, and she was older and more experienced and has a more complete health care plan, wasn’t it just so funny that every male I know from the ages of 18-45 supports Obama, and can rarely come up with any kind of reason for it besides some vague reasoning that he’s more “likeable” or “inspiring” or “you just think he’ll do a better job”? And that because they are so similar, wouldn’t it make intuitive sense (mathematically, in a perfect, patriarchy-free world), that the support would be more evenly-split? And the wasn’t fact that they used the term “battleaxe” instead of perhaps “warhorse”, a term so admiringly applied to older men who’ve been through numerous political battles and come out on top, awfully telling? And worth some self-examination?

    Again, what people said about – you’ve just got to call guys like this on it, quickly, whenever it rears it’s ugly head.

  46. D.N. Nation
    D.N. Nation February 20, 2008 at 4:18 pm |

    Mea culpa, I was dashing out a response at work, between writing obituaries (I work at a funeral home which is both off-topic and a madly interesting job!)–didn’t feel I had the time to fine-tune wording–but of COURSE he is fully and wonderfully human.

    I’m only one guy. If tune/tweak/work-on rolls for you and yours, then it rolls for you and yours. It’s a challenge to find the right balance of you-just-SHOULD-be-this-way/you-are-rewarded-for-being-this-way/if-you-just-do-this…, and if you’ve found that place, then right on you.

  47. harlemjd
    harlemjd February 20, 2008 at 4:20 pm |

    Ashley – no worries. having worked with sexual assault victims, I’m more aware than I want to be of how many of my male friends have that same knee-jerk response.

  48. kristina b
    kristina b February 20, 2008 at 4:32 pm |

    i have plenty of friends who do that too–both male and female. i usually respond with sarcasm. like when a friend says: women are emotional/unpredictable. i’ll say, yeah, like those 19 broads who got aboard a plane and rammed it into a building. or, men won’t respect a woman president. i’ll say, oh totally because no one respected maggie thatcher or golda meier or benazir bhutto or queen victoria or any number of female leaders going back as far as cleopatra. i do that with race too–“arabs are violent/nuts”. yeah–those crazy arabs! invading countries that don’t have WMDs and sponsoring coups to overthrow democtratic governments and giving guns to usama bin laden in the 1980s! crazy violent arabs! etc.

  49. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp February 20, 2008 at 4:34 pm |

    Ashley, don’t feel like you have to defend your hubby. We all know what it’s like to care about someone who’s not a “perfect” feminist/antiracist/etc.

    Obviously there are some guys out there who are so offensive and who embrace their sexism with such vigor that I don’t understand how a clearheaded feminist could stand to be around them — they get the DTMFA stamp with a quickness. I’m in a relationship advice community on Livejournal. A young woman showed up one day and explained that she and her boyfriend are in med school, and he says stuff like, “All the hot girls become nurses,” and “Women with PhD’s are frigid and ugly — I would never date one of them!” Which is just … ugh. But she defended him throughout the thread while the rest of us just shook our heads sadly.

    Point being, there’s a big difference between that guy and your hubby!

  50. Midgetqueen
    Midgetqueen February 20, 2008 at 4:37 pm |

    We are all, indeed, works in progress. If we (in this case, as couples but it ought to apply to relationships in general) *weren’t* working to keep improving ourselves, and to challenge each other to improve, well, I’d consider that a not-good thing.

  51. puggins
    puggins February 20, 2008 at 4:44 pm |

    Okay, let me turn the question around, if ya’ll don’t mind a mild hijacking: how does a father teach his daughter about feminism?

    I’m the father of a nearly five-year-old daughter, and I want to raise her to be fully aware of the misogyny around her and not be afraid to confront it and fight for herself. I know my role in this- I need to make sure that she is not afraid to question authority and that she is a critical and independent thinker. That’ll probably go most of the way, I hope. But are there any books that you guys can recommend that might start her thinking about her identity as a woman? Preferably sooner rather than later- I figure giving her The Feminine Mystique will work at thirteen, not so much at six.

    I do feel a bit of urgency about this- we’re living in the most conservative county in Texas (well, might as well say the galaxy). I know that lecturing her about it just won’t work, especially as she confronts what I assume will be some pretty rampant misogyny in the school system down here. I’m looking for something that’ll get her questioning what’s happening around her on her own.

    Sorry about the hijack again. A quick point to a more-appropriate message board would work too.

  52. Mary
    Mary February 20, 2008 at 4:45 pm |

    So the correct way to deal with my husband calling H. Clinton a bitch is NOT to say “Well it’s obvious you have a problem with women honey, that really sucks”.
    Then when he says “no I don’t”
    I say “Yes you do!”

    no further explaination or Feminism 101.
    I guess I should work on that.

  53. Justin
    Justin February 20, 2008 at 4:54 pm |

    If women are entitled to make their own decisions, are men?

  54. Keden
    Keden February 20, 2008 at 5:19 pm |

    This is a great thread I’m also really excited to discover that there are so many other married feminists with the same problem! This is how I think and deal with this dilemma:
    I remember that it wasn’t too long ago that I was first being introduced to feminism. The truth is, both men and women are raised and indoctrinated in the patriarchy, and unless you’re lucky enough to grow up in a non-conformist family (I sure wasn’t) all genders are going to have to come to grips with their subconscious prejudices. The difference is, men benefit from the patriarchy, so it can be more difficult for them to see the problem. I think it can be especially challenging for good, well meaning men because they don’t want to admit that they see things through a privileged, sexist lens. Who would want to discover bigotry within themselves when they are fundamentally against bigotry? My hubby has been very much exposed to feminism even before I was, but still has problems seeing the whole picture. The important thing though is that he has an open mind and an open ear. So when we have disagreements, I explain to him calmly and conversationally my logic, and then make an extra effort to find news articles and stories that support my point over the next couple weeks -or however long it takes. Eventually, he comes around. For example, at first he thought I was being alarmist when I said we live in a rape culture. After a friendly disagreement, I began e-mailing him articles and statistics about rape. After less than a week, he not only saw my point but agreed with me and began going on anti-rape tirades. I think it’s really crucial for feminists to be able to tolerate a bit of ignorance from people who are open minded and put the work into bringing them around. I deliberately make friends with people who seem to have “potential” so I can try to open them up to accepting gender issues. I really believe the best way to start a real movement is to do it on an individual basis. What better place to start than with our lovers and friends?

  55. Faith
    Faith February 20, 2008 at 5:21 pm |

    “SoulAsylum (19) The girl in question was 10. The guys were 26.”

    Whoaaa….that’s just scary.

  56. Faith
    Faith February 20, 2008 at 5:29 pm |

    “If women are entitled to make their own decisions, are men?”

    Justin,

    If you are asking if men are entitled to make their own decisions in general, I’d say obviously yes. If you are asking if men are entitled to decide what is or is not sexism, then I’d say basically no. Women are the only ones who can really make the decision if something is or is not sexist. Either way, I’m a bit confused as to the point of the question on this post…

  57. Jamie
    Jamie February 20, 2008 at 5:37 pm |

    Two words: Shock therapy. ;p

  58. james
    james February 20, 2008 at 5:39 pm |

    Faith,
    I’m not entirely sure of justins point either but are you really saying only women are entitled to decide what is and what is not sexist in all its forms?

  59. hecateluna
    hecateluna February 20, 2008 at 5:46 pm |

    Others have suggested “get him to read feministe!” I want to second that. Or third. Or whatever. Reading feminist blogs is what worked for my husband, and it worked really, really well (the change was huge–he’s said so, and I see it). We, of course, still occasionally go through these things, but generally over very subtle stuff.

    I think part of the problem is that it’s “easy” to win an argument about one specific sexist comment or belief or joke, but it is very hard to get someone to “get it” and generalize to all (or most) sexism. Immersing oneself in a feminist community like this one for a month (or a few months), if one is reasonably smart and open-minded, seems to work well in helping to “get it.” Or at least it seemed to for my husband.

    foxglove,
    I’m glad you guys have it worked out. However, I would have proposed that he consider taking your name. My husband and I both wanted the “family” aspect of having the same name, and pretty quickly realized that the question to be asking is “what name do we want to have”, rather than “do I take his name.” We settled on my name, because combinations of the two were atrocious, and my name’s just cooler than his old name. (Plus my first name sounds really stupid followed by his last name, while his first name sounds fine followed by my last name.)

  60. james
    james February 20, 2008 at 5:51 pm |

    thats an awesome way to work it out hecateluna

  61. Thomas, TSID
    Thomas, TSID February 20, 2008 at 5:53 pm |

    James, it’s tough to see your own privilege. It’s tough for people to realize that they’re being selfish in general; much harder to see that one is being selfish in a way that is socially sanctioned. It’s tough for white folks to see when they’re being racist and tough for men to see when they’re being sexist.

  62. SarahMC
    SarahMC February 20, 2008 at 6:09 pm |

    Foxglove, I would say something along the lines of, “Well, we can establish a family by taking my name, right?”
    He will probably still stick to his opinion, but maybe you can get him to see that it’s sexist to insist that only the man’s name makes a group of people a family.
    Remind him that women are no longer the legal property of their husbands, so there is no real reason for you to take his name. Ask why he’d want to be part of a tradition like that. Not all traditions are good ones.

  63. Justin
    Justin February 20, 2008 at 6:15 pm |

    This has nothing to do with sexism. An underaged girl really can consent to sex. Is it legal? Definitely not. Does it happen? All the time. When someone says they got raped, police always take into account of whether she’s lying or not, so it’s reasonable to think that it might have occured. And what if Hillary is a power hungry bitch? Why is that so horrible? Because anyone who gets cheated on and doesn’t immediately leave their spouse has poor judgement in my opinion and is only using Bill’s presidency to get some votes into office for herself. Power hungry bitch.

  64. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon February 20, 2008 at 6:15 pm |

    I’m going through something similar with my dad. Sometimes it’s like he’s channeling MRA Public Relations. Like some friends he only knows thru online are getting divorced. Thru a third person he’s told that she just up, took the kids and accused him of abuse during their 15 year marriage. The guy, naturally, denies this (and really whose to know what the truth is? They could not even be married, they could be two 14 yr old dweebs playing everyone for suckers), so my dad says he’s going to give him advice, like legal advice to get his kids back and I’m like “whoa there, what if she’s telling the truth?” and then to my shock he seriously says “Women lie about this stuff”. When I try to point out what a bunch of BS that is (and what a bad idea it is to say something so general and demeaning to his daughter and in front of his granddaughter) he says “well he’s innocent till proven guilty”….. and I’m like, but for some reason she’s automatically guilty of being a liar? How the hell does that make any sense?!

    Sometimes… even the guys we think are somewhat enlightened are somehow still living in the dark ages. Makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and just walk away from humanity.

  65. 1five9
    1five9 February 20, 2008 at 6:15 pm |

    Hecateluna: We are considering a merged name now that the kid is on its way. It’s interesting to hear my husband deal with the issues women who change their name deal with all the time. “What a logistical pain at work.” “Does it hurt my career/my credit/etc?” Interestingly, he seems to be dealing with it better than me. I’m struggling with giving up “my” name to this random name almost as much as I would have to take “his” name. He hasn’t similar identity concerns which fascinates me.

    But this is really a last name thread…

  66. 1five9
    1five9 February 20, 2008 at 6:20 pm |

    I really can’t type today. I meant “this really isn’t” and I didn’t want to hijack. It’s just been my recent issue with non-sexist spouse, but who may not quite be a feminist.

  67. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp February 20, 2008 at 6:22 pm |

    Because anyone who gets cheated on and doesn’t immediately leave their spouse has poor judgement in my opinion

    Ah, so “priorities different from yours” = “poor judgment.” Good to know.

  68. XtinaS
    XtinaS February 20, 2008 at 6:25 pm |

    Justin:

    I do believe you’re stuck at stage 2 – “If that happened to me, I’d do q.  She didn’t do q, thus she’s a terrible person.”

  69. SarahMC
    SarahMC February 20, 2008 at 6:27 pm |

    Justin, who the hell are you to decide how individuals deal with their marital problems? Talk about searching for a reason to dismiss her.
    Maybe Hillary and Bill have an open relationship.
    Are you seriously demanding that ALL spouses who’ve been cheated on immediately leave their marriages, no matter what? Like you wouldn’t be giving her just as much hell had she done THAT and dared to run for POTUS.

  70. Justin
    Justin February 20, 2008 at 6:28 pm |

    Well then why would anyone in their right mind stay?

  71. SarahMC
    SarahMC February 20, 2008 at 6:30 pm |

    An underaged girl really can consent to sex.

    A young person doing consentual sexual stuff with another person is one thing.

    It’s the power imbalance (26 y/o and 10 y/o!) that makes certain instances wrong.

  72. SarahMC
    SarahMC February 20, 2008 at 6:30 pm |

    Oops, I meant to type another YOUNG person.

  73. Thomas, TSID
    Thomas, TSID February 20, 2008 at 6:31 pm |

    Justin wins the “how far we have to go” award for today. Thanks, Justin. Your shining example of intolerance and judgment will serve, like a lighthouse, to show us all what to avoid.

  74. SarahMC
    SarahMC February 20, 2008 at 6:33 pm |

    Why don’t you ask the millions of people who’ve been cheated on & stayed, Justin? For chrissakes. Is it possible they truly love each other and enjoy certain aspects of each other’s personalities? Maybe he looks the other way while she gets some on the side. Who the fuck cares.
    No matter WHAT she did afterwards, the public and the media would crucify her.

  75. Justin
    Justin February 20, 2008 at 6:34 pm |

    So you are saying that its ok for young people to do sexual things as long as thay are around the same age?

  76. Thomas, TSID
    Thomas, TSID February 20, 2008 at 6:35 pm |

    Justin, because perhaps they have a deal, and the real rule is, “have sex with whoever you want on the side but don’t embarrass me.” Because perhaps he was doing well at that through his White House years until Linda Tripp and the Starr Chamber got in a position to force into the public eye something that otherwise would have remained private.

    (I’m not condoning sex with a workplace subordinate. That’s what I’m mad at Bill about.)

  77. Justin
    Justin February 20, 2008 at 6:40 pm |

    I still think that to be President you have to have some decency. Staying married to a person who promised to love, honor, and cherish only you and obviously doesn’t is an incredibly foolish way to get your heart broken a second time.

  78. Feministe » Another question from a reader: Raising feminist daughters

    [...] up to the thread about discussing feminism with male partners: How does a father teach his daughter about [...]

  79. james
    james February 20, 2008 at 6:44 pm |

    Thomas,
    I get that but I dislike limiting it in that way. While it indeed might be tougher to recognize it in ones privileged self I believe it is still possible. For example I hate terms like “reverse racism” or “reverse sexism” as I believe there is no such thing, there is only racism or sexism. I am aware of the many, many articles and books written on this and am more familiar with the racist side of things. A petulant friend of mine is fond of saying “great! only group X is entitled to define phenomenon y. i dont belong to group X so just go ahead and give me a list to work with and daily email updates and I’ll be good to go!” I agree that women, in this country, are far better equipped to define sexism but they do not hold a monopoly on that, or are we going to go down the road of only members of group X + Z (say for example black women) can define phenomenon Q? Gah crap, justin got me,

  80. Kristen
    Kristen February 20, 2008 at 6:44 pm |

    An underaged girl really can consent to sex.

    Nope. She can’t. She can say she wants to have sex. She can even request sex. But she cannot, by law *consent* to sex.

    Children do not have full agency. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s bad. In this case, I’m going with good.

    In addition, let’s be clear about what statutory rape laws do and do not do. They do not prohibit or penalize children for engaging in sexual activity. They penalize adults for engaging in sexual activity with a sufficiently younger minor as to indicate a power imbalance or coercion.

    But now we’re completely off topic, which I suppose was the point.

  81. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp February 20, 2008 at 6:47 pm |

    Well then why would anyone in their right mind stay?

    Because they find more joy with the person than they would without. Because they don’t actually value monogamy all that highly. Because they forgive the betrayal and trust their partner not to do it again. Because they and their partner have discussed it at length and learned from the experience.

    A great number of couples deal with infidelity, rebuild trust and love, and go on to have happy relationships for decades. Are those people all “out of their right minds”?

  82. Justin
    Justin February 20, 2008 at 6:49 pm |

    The point was to show that it wasn’t a mysogynistic thing to think.

  83. james
    james February 20, 2008 at 6:50 pm |

    Justin,
    Wow man, decency is a very subjective word. We know nothing of the Clinton’s behind closed doors, we can only speculate. I tend to think some deal was put in place when he was working on becoming governor or after the incident with lewinsky came out but it doesnt really matter to me. If you can be with a person and stick with them, with open eyes and full understanding, and make it work you should be applauded for that. What youre doing is ascribing motivations to her that you have no place doing.

  84. ShelbyWoo
    ShelbyWoo February 20, 2008 at 6:51 pm |

    I’m thinking of this baggage of patriarchy that comes from the tradition of kids have their father’s names. If the kid would take my name, I have to deal with the crap from conservative friends if the kid has my name (I already get it for not having “taken his” when we got married). It feels like “my” issue to decide.

    My hubby and I are trying to conceive. He is very aware that the only reason that I am not contesting that the child have his last name is because (besides his 67 year old father and his sister who will most likely change her name if she gets married) he is literally the only person with his last name in the U.S. – and anywhere else as far as we can tell. He is in the rare and unique situation of his surname dying out with him if he doesn’t pass on his name. If we ever decide to have second child, she OR he will have my last name (I kept my name upon marriage), that seems only fair to me.

    The other night, he called our dog a “pussy” (she’s the wimpiest dog I’ve ever met, we are here to protect her, not the other way around!). He immediately said: “I have to stop using that as a derogatory term!” Yay!! I’ve noticed that since I have become more pro-active in combating sexism, so has he. He has become especially adept at catching his own sexist comments, but he will call others out as well.

  85. Faith
    Faith February 20, 2008 at 6:53 pm |

    “I’m not entirely sure of justins point either but are you really saying only women are entitled to decide what is and what is not sexist in all its forms?”

    James,

    Um, yes, as a matter of fact I am.

  86. Temporarily Anon
    Temporarily Anon February 20, 2008 at 6:53 pm |

    I struggle with this particular thing myself, and a close friend of mine does as well and we commiserate about our boyfriends or male friends sometimes. I don’t have an answer or a strategy, I just muddle through, impatient and inconsistent. I think, Why should I have to put up with this? Why must I explain step-by-step defending all the way the basic principles of human decency because they just can’t bring themselves to admit they just might have biases?

  87. Temporarily Anon
    Temporarily Anon February 20, 2008 at 6:54 pm |

    Oh yeah, and fuck off, troll.

  88. Thomas, TSID
    Thomas, TSID February 20, 2008 at 6:54 pm |

    decency.

    Well, there’s a word that can mean whatever you want it to. Maybe some of us think that decency includes the capacity to forgive.

  89. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp February 20, 2008 at 7:01 pm |

    That’s awesome, Shelby! I still have to work “pussy = cowardly” out of my vocabulary, so your husband’s got a leg up on me.

  90. Rika
    Rika February 20, 2008 at 7:08 pm |

    I’m having trouble with the whole “pussy” insult too, simply because its so much stronger than, say, “wuss.” I called my brother a little bitch once, and I felt bad afterwards that I couldn’t think of a gender-neutral term.

  91. She-cago
    She-cago February 20, 2008 at 7:10 pm |

    ah, buh-bye Justin ;-)

    Hey all, this has been a great thread! I am enjoying how both men and women listening to each other.

    :-)

  92. XtinaS
    XtinaS February 20, 2008 at 7:17 pm |

    The other suggestions have been fantastic.  Flip the genders in things and see how it looks then – then discuss why it’s different.

    I run into the problem where I get flustered in an argument where I know what I mean to say, but my partner can argue rings around me.  So instead, I’ll ask him why he thinks that.  Why he says that.  That sort of thing.  Not in a bad way, just, “Why do you think women don’t run for office more?”

    Either he’ll dredge up his own sexism by being poked about it, or I’ll get a better sense of what examples I should be looking for, to present my case later.

  93. XtinaS
    XtinaS February 20, 2008 at 7:23 pm |

    Another thing that’s helped me is remembering that it’s not an overnight process.  I get in this extremist headspace, where it has to be done right now or else forget it, he’ll never change.  So, I try to remember that he doesn’t have to change his mind omg right now.  This takes the pressure off me to be the best arguer there is, and also takes the pressure off him (of me going “change change aiee!”) (heh), which means it’s more likely that he’ll consider these things on his own.

  94. james
    james February 20, 2008 at 7:28 pm |

    Last thing I have to add to this is it can be a long-term thing, as mentioned above. Don’t expect for a lightbulb to go off in every conversation and don’t expect to “win” every argument. I used to try too hard and didn’t realize that if you talk with someone, make them see things a little differently, give the idea some time to sink in and of course offer some gentle “prodding” you will get much better results.

  95. james
    james February 20, 2008 at 7:30 pm |

    dang Xtina, beat me to it. Final final thing I’d like to add is that this a very wide-ranging topic, be prepared to have your own understanding of things changed a little, you will not always be and you do not always have to be “right”. its a process and a damned important one.

  96. JW
    JW February 20, 2008 at 7:47 pm |

    I don’t have any really novel how-to suggestions (worked late, just got here), but I would say that it is a process, that it takes time, and that the more channels you can operate in the better. We’ve had many conversations, we swap opinions on every conceivable subject, and that helps, but thing that I’ve noticed over the last year or so has to do with how we interact w/ visual media (tv, movies, webstuff) I’m one to talk at the TV or whatever “text” I’m reading (so’s the BF), and through hearing me puncture crap arguments on the news or offensive tripe on talk shows, films, or whatever, BF has started “reading” things that (I assume) he previously didn’t notice, and now I hear him calling out sexism, loud and proud, when I haven’t bothered. It makes me smile.

  97. Six Easy Ways To Make A Point : Elaine Vigneault

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  98. Marissa
    Marissa February 20, 2008 at 8:46 pm |

    This has been a really good thread, minus the troll. Thanks for clearing that mess outa here. I think as feminists we are all in this position, having to explain ourselves over and over to friends, partners, and family. Sometimes I find it really trying. I get tired of doing feminism 101 all the time. But I also think this is one of the best things we can do, talk to those close to us and arm them with tools to see around the patriarchy.

  99. Christina
    Christina February 20, 2008 at 9:08 pm |

    Reading things like this is what makes it so interesting for me to be dating who I am. A guy with a feminist mom who refused to take her husband’s name (his is therefore hyphenated). A guy who said he would “feel weird” if we got married and I took his name.

    I have to remind myself over and over again how fortunate I am that in my generation and cultural niche (young artsy hipsters), I find absolutely no gender inequality or even significant difference in my recurring social interactions (with friends). Of course I realize these biases are out there in the culture as a whole, but I am able to mostly ignore that section of it, or am at the very least not confronted with it daily. (of course there are subconscious things I’m sure, but I’m at best an incremental revolutionary who believes it is often more useful to recognize and subvert cultural biases rather than completely erase them).

    Anyway, it was my boyfriend who got me hooked on feministe and pandagon and I thank him for that.

  100. Tomatillo
    Tomatillo February 20, 2008 at 10:09 pm |

    One thing that I’ve found to work is to remind the Boyfriend that, when we’re talking about sexism/harrasment/violence/hate that women deal with on a day-to-day basis, is that I am speaking from personal experiance. Because he can think a whole lot of theory about what it’s like to be a woman in a patriarchal society, but I’ve been living it for thirty years. So every now and then, I’ll listen to him try to explain or justify something that I know to be messed up, and I’ll have to say, “Dude? That’s a very interesting theory, but that’s not how it actually happens. To me. Almost every day.”

  101. K
    K February 20, 2008 at 10:34 pm |

    I’m definitely in the middle of this process too, as my best beloved comes from a very conservative culture. We tend to divide labor roughly along traditionally gendered lines, since I collect spices for fun and he collects bolts and wiring. But the fact that our interests coincide with gender stereotypes makes it harder for him to understand why I bristle at the suggestion that the kitchen is really the women’s space in the home and so on.

    I’ve been using a combination of brief, sharp “There it is” comments when he says something sexist; long, calm, patient discussions about the topic when something sexist has happened in the news or one of our workplaces, so that we can discuss it without putting him in a defensive position; and routine affirmations that I see him as a deeply decent, considerate, and fairminded individual who happens to have some irritating traces of his sexist upbringing. And yes, I do believe that. He’s the sort of person who always gives you the bigger piece of pie, no matter who you are. Despite his background, he supports full rights for everyone, even people who make him feel icky. (By that, I don’t mean homosexuals, but non-op transgender folk, androgynes, and such. He believes that what consenting adults do is their own concern and thinks it’s appalling that the state makes distinctions on gender lines, but he has more difficulty accepting that consenting adults don’t have to fit his male-female dichotomy. Intellectually, he knows their rights trump his squeamishness. Emotionally, he’s still struggling.)

    So far, his response to my consciousness raising has been something along the lines of, “Okay, I see why you’re right, but I’m not going to change my behavior.” Instead of jumping on that, I’m trying to see it as the first step. My theory is that it’s like hearing a new vocabulary word everywhere you go: Once sexism is on his mind, he’ll see it whenever it happens. Since he is deeply decent, he will be offended by the prevalence of sexism and irritated by the company which he’s joining by continuing in this vein. He is picking up on the racism at his job and, as he becomes more atune to how sexism is expressed, I think he’ll discover that it tends to be the same aggressors in both cases.

    To be honest, this looks a lot like the process others have used to make me more aware of my class, racial, and cultural biases. I don’t want to pretend that just because I’m a feminist, I have all of my issues resolved!

  102. Hector B.
    Hector B. February 21, 2008 at 1:07 am |

    Men have blind spots because they don’t see things from a female perspective. Perhaps the male behavior complained of hits close to home, a sort of “There, but for the grace of god, went I.” Or perhaps rooting for one’s home team makes the listener unwilling to believe his gender is capable of pure evil.

  103. Lisa
    Lisa February 21, 2008 at 3:47 am |

    I’m new to this blog so ‘hi everyone’. Mine is a slightly different situation – things are working in reverse for me. My partner isn’t feminist so I started a few conversations with him to try to ‘convert’ him, but these have caused me to seriously question and doubt my own beliefs and his have remained unchanged, which is certainly not the intended effect!
    He’s brighter than me which I guess gives him an advantage when it comes to questioning and challenging each other about our beliefs, but still it feels strange and a little wrong for things to be turning out this way.

  104. Oh
    Oh February 21, 2008 at 5:37 am |

    The combination of tactics K talks about is particularly useful in my experience, too.

    I also want to underscore that, when you’re dealing with someone who really does want to work at being feminist, it can work great just to say, “Mm, did you notice how what you said there reflects a lot of sexism?” And if they say, “Oh, right–well, I didn’t mean it that way,” you can say, “Okay, what did you really mean?” and you can get on with your discussion if it turns out they have a non-sexist point to make and fell into using sexist language that they’ve now corrected.

    Alternatively, if they say, “I don’t see why that’s sexist,” you can say, “Well, think about it for a while and get back to me.”

    Again, that’ll only work on someone who wants to engage with these issues and becomes less sexist. They have to know what sexism and male privilege are as concepts and believe that being a feminist is good. Plus, it has to be someone you care about enough to actually check back in with on the issue, to make them feel comfortable about voicing what they’ve thought about, and to help them keep thinking through the issue if they come back to you with progress but not the fully thought-out conclusion.

    In those cases, though, I think it can work well. Making myself think through issues on my own, with the underlying assumption that the person bringing up this issue is doing so legitimately, has certainly helped me as a white person sort through specific issues related to racism.

  105. VK
    VK February 21, 2008 at 6:59 am |

    Foxglove:

    I explained to him that expecting the woman to take the man’s name is sexist and offensive to me, and he agreed that it was indeed sexist, but that he liked the tradition anyway because it “symbolized making a family.

    Suggest to him that if he wants the family to have only one name and you want to keep your name there is a fair compromise – he takes yours. His response to that should show whether or not if just making excuses to get you to take his.

  106. Iaypo
    Iaypo February 21, 2008 at 10:25 am |

    Hi everyone, I don’t comment often but I have to say it is such a relief to know that I am not alone in being a feminist and having a boyfriend that I have to “train”. I have found that sarcasm is definitely my friend in a lot of situations although sitting down and having long conversations is helpful too.

    Anyhow just wanted to say how much a appreciate this discussion!

  107. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp February 21, 2008 at 12:43 pm |

    Not sure where to put this, but I have another “question from a reader” that Googling couldn’t solve.

    A young woman who says, disdainfully, “Oh, I can’t stand spending time with other girls. Women are so catty.” How would you respond?

  108. Sara
    Sara February 21, 2008 at 1:47 pm |

    To everyone struggling with the “but one name makes a family” thing….

    No, not really.

    I didn’t take my husband’s name, and for various reasons our children have his last name (the whole “give them one last name as a middle name” system was invented by WASPs whose names were all Ball, Carter, Lee, Brown, or Scott).

    Maybe its just that I”m fortunate to live in a university town and have my kids attend a school full of university families, but with so many people from around the world here, all with their different naming conventions, it’s not unusual for a family to have two or even three last names between its members — and no one cares. It doesn’t loosen family bonds, it doesn’t make you feel like any less of a family. Whole other cultures do not do with names what we do, and yet they manage to have strong families!! They also manage to be just as patriarchal and opressive to women, so renaming all women on marriage is not some magic bullet to keep us all from getting careers and divorcing our breadwinners, either.

    The ability to refer to everyone who lives in a house as “The Jeffersons” is not indicative of much of anything, and the desire to make that ability the defining reason for choosing a name comes down to laziness in filling out envelopes. If one more person says “You people with different last names mess up my christmas card mailing list” I”m gonna puke.

  109. SarahMC
    SarahMC February 21, 2008 at 1:55 pm |

    Hot Tramp,

    Ask, “What, are you the exception to the rule?” Ask how she thinks people tolerate her presence, if girls are universally catty.
    Tell her that you haven’t found that to be the case in your own life, and you prefer not to think of people in terms of stereotypes.
    I assume you are a woman; if that’s the case, ask her if she thinks you’re catty or a bad friend.
    Tell her that that viewpoint is not uncommon, and that it’s reflective of internalized misogyny, and an attempt to be perceived as *better* than other women.

    p.s. My observations have shown me that the “girls are so catty! I’m one of the guys!” girls are typically the “cattiest” ones of all. Maybe some day your friend will tire of the male adoration and realize that friendships between women are wonderful.

  110. Anonymous For The Minute
    Anonymous For The Minute February 21, 2008 at 2:42 pm |

    Lisa, a lesson from my past, watch yourself. Relationships where you find yourself talked out of firmly held beliefs, especially those in your own self-worth, can be problematic. Make sure that he’s not causing you to doubt yourself. That way can lead to abusive situations. Not that I’m saying it is, just that I’m a survivor and it started with little teensy nibbles into my self-esteem.

    /paranoia

    And forgive me if I’m completely out of line.

  111. Teaching children their bodies are their own

    [...] recommend all of the comments, and the earlier conversation about how to talk to your usually feminist partner about misogynist comments they let slip. Lots of [...]

  112. Chris
    Chris February 21, 2008 at 3:36 pm |

    From my perspective, the most important thing to make sure the message gets across is not to belittle the guy. It sounds like most examples here are exceptions to otherwise level headed guys. Making references to “training” a guy to be more feminist could backfire. I know excessive sarcasm would likely make me defensive where just broaching the issue and having me stop and think out what’d I’d said would be far better.

    Oh, and make sure they’re serious about what they said first. I have a dry sense of humor at times and my first reaction to the post that Girls Next Door gives a more human face to playboy girls because you get to know who they are was “But the magazine helps you to get to know them too, it has they’re likes and dislikes and everything.”

  113. Thomas, TSID
    Thomas, TSID February 21, 2008 at 3:39 pm |

    Lisa, I cringe when I hear women say, “he’s smarter than me.”

    My wife used to say this all the time. She’s a bio major and wasn’t very politically involved before we met, and her knowledge base isn’t broad. I have a very broad knowledge base. She tended to think that I was smarter than her because I knew more stuff. Meanwhile, I’ve had the opportunity for years to see her reason and assimilate new information. It is entirely clear to me that while I continue to know more about more things, she has slightly better logical skills and far better powers of observation. She’s smarter than me, and I’ve told her so until she’s been willing to believe it.

    I know many smart women who are convinced that they are not very smart. Some don’t do well on standardized tests, but even some who do can’t quite believe that they’re really smart. It’s a patriarchally imposed lack of confidence. I even know some women who think their male partners are smarter than them because the boys will steamroll and overwhelm them in arguments, rather than use reason. Those arguments are contests of bombast, where only certitude and intransigence are tested.

    Maybe he is smarter than you; I don’t know you or him. But don’t tell yourself that just because you lack the confidence to stand up for your conclusions, and don’t be convinced of that just because it’s what he says. Don’t sell yourself short.

  114. tannenburg
    tannenburg February 21, 2008 at 3:58 pm |

    Lisa: to echo what Thomas, TSID said above – from the other perspective: without too much bragging (all right, a bit) I have a Ph.D. and an IQ tested somewhere around 150-160…and it staggers me how stupid I can be from time to time. Just because someone is “smarter” doesn’t mean they are more or less logical, intuitive, or even cognitively gifted. Don’t let intransigence masquerade as certainty of knowledge. In fact, I’d hazard to say that the smarter one feels oneself to be the more difficult it is to admit that one doesn’t know everything and, in fact, can hold disputable positions. If you feel and know you are right about an issue, don’t let any perception of relative intelligence shatter your confidence.

  115. Thaniell
    Thaniell February 21, 2008 at 4:04 pm |

    Hi girls and boys,
    just as a side note: Not all of us boys really mean what we say as we say it – stereotypes sometimes just make a good joke. And yeah yeah – i totally agree some of them are out of place and should not be tolerated. However, some guys will just put you (in their mind) in the hardcore feminist corner and ignore what you have to say, if you appear to them as trying to evangelize them. If one truly accepts each other (including the differences), one should be able to take some “sexist-appearing” jokes on both sides (yeah women can be sexist too!) and tell the other one without much of a quarrel when he overdid it and why. Most of the guys you probably would consider as “good” are willing to learn, but they already know that women are people – they might as you already pointed out just not understand what is insulting in what they just said. The other way around it does not hurt to ask how he meant what he just said and also understand his side.
    btw. i would not object to just flip a coin when getting married – or take her name if that sounds better than mine. Just, I do not think I’ll ever get married if I don’t ask her – isn’t that sexist? ;) And that altough she is one of the most independent (positively) selfcentered girl I personally know…

  116. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus February 21, 2008 at 4:06 pm |

    Re: “smarter than me”:

    I tend to take the “multiple intelligences” view on such matters. Comparisons between people on who is “smarter” than whom can lead to ugly competitiveness and self-esteem problems, because in our culture, we tend to view intelligence as a measure of someone’s worth as a human being and create hierarchies based on such. Not always, but it can.

    This is problematic for a number of reasons, but one is that there are different kinds of intelligence. I’ve generally found in my relationships that I’m not really more or less smart than my friends and partners on the whole. Rather, I have strengths in certain kinds of intelligence, and so do they.

  117. Thomas, TSID
    Thomas, TSID February 21, 2008 at 4:44 pm |

    Linnaeus, yeah, there are lots of different mental capacities that get lumped together. One thing about my spouse that has really caught my attention is how she assimilates new information easily. She used to stay up and watch boxing with me, something I was raised with. She had no background, but after a few dozen fights, she had absorbed a lot of commentary and said things about the fight that were smarter and more insightful than things some of the commentators said (I’m looking at you, George Foreman! “This game is easy if you have a jab” is neither original nor helpful).

  118. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp February 21, 2008 at 8:24 pm |

    However, some guys will just put you (in their mind) in the hardcore feminist corner and ignore what you have to say, if you appear to them as trying to evangelize them.

    I thank god every day for this handy screening process. I don’t want to date a guy who would lose interest for me for being a “hardcore feminist.” In fact, I rather prefer dating men who identify as “hardcore feminists” themselves.

  119. SKM
    SKM February 21, 2008 at 8:50 pm |

    I also winced a bit when I read Lisa’s comment,

    He’s brighter than me which I guess gives him an advantage when it comes to questioning and challenging each other about our beliefs, but still it feels strange and a little wrong for things to be turning out this way.

    Please, don’t just accept that he is just able to argue rings around you. I have been in this situation (briefly). My experience (I am a het female) squared with Thomas’ brilliant point:

    I even know some women who think their male partners are smarter than them because the boys will steamroll and overwhelm them in arguments, rather than use reason. Those arguments are contests of bombast, where only certitude and intransigence are tested.

    Your partner may or may not be making good faith, well-structured arguments based on facts, but you can make sure that you are.

    Here are some resources I like:

    The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe’s top 20 logical fallacies

    Denialism Blog (addresses how to deal with “arguments” that are based on preconceptions rather than facts).

  120. Lisa
    Lisa February 21, 2008 at 9:50 pm |

    I guess I didn’t make clear in my post – my boyfriend’s not sexist and he does agree with a few feminist goals for his own reasons, but he disagrees with other goals and with feminism as an ideology.
    Anonymous For The Minute: sorry to hear about that side of your past, and no I don’t think you’re out of line – it’s good advice. I don’t think I’m at any risk at all of ending up being abused with him.
    The flip side of the point you made is that I’ve been trying to talk him out of his beliefs, and the way he sees (and I’m starting to see) things is that we both have more self-worth with his beliefs than with feminism.

    Thomas, TSID and tannenburg: good points and I understand what you’re saying. I know that I’m smart in my own ways but overall he is smarter, more logical and so on than me.
    The reasons he’s been able to make me doubtful about feminism is because he’s better than me at objectively thinking things over and examining arguments – including his own – for bias and assumptions, so his beliefs have stood up very well to scrutiny while my all-too-subjective beliefs have not.

  121. SKM
    SKM February 21, 2008 at 10:24 pm |

    Lisa, I realize my comment was a little pushy and a little preachy–sorry! *backs down*

  122. Lisa
    Lisa February 22, 2008 at 12:26 am |

    SKM, your (123/8:50) comment somehow hadn’t appeared when I submitted mine (124/9:50), so I wasn’t responding to you and I don’t have a problem with what you said. Thanks for the links.
    My boyfriend does argue in good faith and so on. He doesn’t (usually) care about proving himself right – with him it’s more about exploring different ideas and testing his own, so he will quite often point out assumptions or logical fallacies of mine (or his) and then help me modify my arguments for the better… but even with my ‘improved’ arguments he still holds his beliefs and I’m still losing mine.

  123. mythago
    mythago February 22, 2008 at 1:15 am |

    Thaniell, you should think about how humor is used to hurt – and how “kidding on the square” is used to deflect anger about assholish behavior. “Awwww, I was just joking! Where’s your sense of humor?” is a very handy way to shut down somebody calling you on your shit.

    (I find that the “How many men does it take to wallpaper an apartment?” joke is a great way to shut down the just-funnin’-little-lady routine. People in power aren’t used to being the butt of jokes, and you can see the lightbulb go on, once in a while, when they’re the recipient of mockery they can’t say something about without looking like a humorless dick.)

    Foxglove – I really find that you have to get to the root of the problem, which is “I know it’s wrong but I wanna anyway.” And make it clear to them that “I wanna” doesn’t make it okay, and doesn’t mean you should have to go along with it.

  124. Andrea
    Andrea February 22, 2008 at 3:50 am |

    Here’s an idea! Don’t marry, or even have sex with, men. I’m not helpful.

  125. Andrea
    Andrea February 22, 2008 at 9:20 am |

    Okay, now a more helpful one: I think impressing upon men the importance of free and easy access to reproductive healthcare (and eventually all healthcare) is crucial. Again, it’s good to be armed with statistics (as always). Good ones involve maternal death rates under pro- and anti-choice administrations, the 72% of abortion leaders are men statistic, and my personal favorite, 40% of women in their lifetime WILL have an abortion. That 40% statistic is as earth-shattering to me as the 1 in 4 women will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime (and that number is likely unreported). I don’t know if abortions are unreported, simply because people who have had abortions know what they are.

    In fact, I think statistics are the most important thing a woman can have when trying to convince a man that sexism is not just a figment of the imaginations of a few crazy bitches. He’ll probably assume he’s smarter than you are, and try to use LOGIC and SCIENCE! to prove his points. Oooh a working knowledge of why evo psych is crack science is good. And workplace statistics. And why one can’t make sweeping statements about other cultures with no reference to one’s own culture (e.g., a recent example with a man I know was his comment that it’s stupid that Iranian women have to cover up to play sports. I quietly searched for a picture of http://publish.netitor.com/photos/schools/ariz/galleries/hall-of-fame/Women's%20Basketball%201908.jpg from around 1900). Oh goodness it’s just good to generally know everything :)

  126. SarahMC
    SarahMC February 22, 2008 at 10:23 am |

    What is the “How many men does it take to wallpaper an apartment?” joke?

    Lisa, many men consider themselves the “objective” voice on everything – you know, as opposed to those of us with “identity” (women, blacks, gays…). They are not. They have just as much bias as anyone else.

  127. Hector B.
    Hector B. February 22, 2008 at 2:16 pm |

    we both have more self-worth with his beliefs than with feminism.

    This result is hard to understand, given the classic definition of feminism: the radical notion that women are people. How does he structure his argument that being unequal to him gives you more self-worth?

  128. Andrea
    Andrea February 22, 2008 at 2:46 pm |

    Crap my link isn’t working. Stupid internets. Well, it’s a picture of a women’s basketball team circa 1900 in which the players are wearing full skirts and long-sleeves.

  129. Thaniell
    Thaniell February 22, 2008 at 3:12 pm |

    @mythago:
    Surely that might be a handy excuse (or not even an excuse just a way to get the other one to shut up). However I did not want to defend all sexist jokes, neither was I saying it’s okay to call anything sexist a joke and go on with it. I just wanted to point out that not everything that may sound sexist is meant that way. This is about living with the good guys that basically are feminist on an equal basis, isn’t it?
    Of course you have to know someone a bit to decide how he meant it in some cases. The point is, it’s no fun talking to someone if you have to rethink everything you say three times before you actually say it to make sure there is not the slightest chance of someone finding something sexist in it. In some situations stereotypes just make a good joke – regardless about whom. And I think if you understand and like each other you should always be able to take such a joke (that truly is just meant that way). There are a lot of stereotypes about men, politicians, students whatsoever. If you understand each other and basically accept each other to be equal, it is usually no problem to do some jokes on the account of the other. As I said, there certainly are unacceptable things that need to be addressed directly and maybe explained why this was hurting. Just as a genderless example, if a friend calls me a “a typically lazy student” and smilingly says “one should make you pay for our sleeping time instead of the time at school/university” I’ll probably laugh – If a politician says something similar to get votes from the conservatives, I would angrily call him a populist rattler.

    @Hot Tramp:
    Sadly we probably will never date then, because I would never refer to me as hardcore feminist. However, maybe that is just because of a different understanding of what a hardcore feminist is. For me hardcore here is like extreme and I refuse to be anything in “extreme” (perhaps except being extreme in love etc.), because you always restrict yourself and often enough turn blind on one eye. But yeah I believe that women and men are basically humanly equal and especially have the same rights and responsibilities of course. Period, no question. What I mean with hardcore feminist is the extremist way of trying to achieve that equilibrium in the practical world and maybe to achieve it that pure that it’s not “natural” any more (like “there have to be 50% women and 50% men in each job even if we have to make it a law and enforce it around the world by military force”).

    I certainly do prefer dating a girl that has her own point of view and defends it (reasonably) than one that just rebabbles what I tell her or she gets from TV … anyway, my point there is, I know several guys that at heart are not sexist at all (except some flaws where they usually just not recognize their mistake). However, I could easily imagine they could be kind of frightened of if a girl they meet the first time is mainly accusing them of being sexist for half of the sentences they say. Although one might be able to tell them what’s wrong with what they just said – just sometimes the human mind works simple: It is exhausting to talk to that girl and this evening I wanted to chill out – so let’s just ignore her. … Well as always it depends on how you do it…

    Finally you tried to figure out how to make the guys you know or love better feminists (more or less), I just tried to give you a bit insight of what (part of) the other side might(!) think.

  130. charles
    charles February 22, 2008 at 4:11 pm |

    Here’s an idea! Don’t marry, or even have sex with, men. I’m not helpful.

    Andrea was being funny here, and wrote a very hopeful response next. but i think one can add the word “sexist” to the statement and it’s accurate and very useful. (“don’t marry or even date sexist men.”) i know there aren’t alot of feminist men out there, but there have to be times when having no partner is a better option than one man who devalues women or belittles the struggles they go thru. even with the lack of feminist men, it seems too important to overlook sexist attitudes and behaviors in someone you want to have a meaningful romantic relationship with.

    i really worry when i hear a feminist woman talking about her boyfriend who “doesn’t get it.” intimate relattionships are so, well, intimate that it seems that being in an intimate relationship with a sexist person can not help but have some very difficult repercussions on your soul and your sense of self-esteem. this is especially painful for women who are not just believers in women’s equality, but commited feminists who want respect for all women. thus, having their boyfriend be respectful of them, but not all women, isn’t enough.

    in this thread, most women have said their boyfriends are NOT sexists, they just are not yet totally non-sexist. that is a vital distinction. if a man is sexist, you are likely wrong to think you’re going to be the one to change him. the best thing to do is get WAY away from people like that. do not give them the opprotunity to get close to you and hurt you. i’m a man who firmly believes the emotional is far more powerful than the rational. once emotional ties are formed it is so much harder to leave.

    in those cases where you’re trying to figure out if the man in question is A Sexist, or is just parroting some sexist behaviors he’s learned, i think the response you get to your first mentions of sexism are very instructive. if they immediately start giving responses like the ones Thaniell mentions “boy, it’s exhausting talking to someone who actually wants me to be non-sexist,” then you can probably be sure they ain’t coming around, and it wil be much healthier to move on.

  131. Emily
    Emily February 22, 2008 at 6:58 pm |

    Love the thread. Can you suggest good books to start with re: feminist theory. I know first hand that some theory can be hard to engage with without getting defensive (for me it was Judith Butler). What are people’s favorite books that give good, intellectually complex and persuasive explanations of feminist theory without crossing over into “all heterosexual relationships are oppressive” territory? (which I don’t think my male comrades are ready for; which I am not entirely ready for, though I try to work through my defensiveness)

  132. greenmouse
    greenmouse February 22, 2008 at 9:25 pm |

    What is the “How many men does it take to wallpaper an apartment?” joke?

    I think…It depends how thinly you slice them?

    It could be some other joke, though.

  133. Lisa
    Lisa February 22, 2008 at 11:45 pm |

    Hector B:
    I don’t know that I can explain it to you properly but I’ll try.

    Basically he holds beliefs based on innate differences between men and women (which I guess will be unpopular around here…) He thinks genetics and biochemistry can explain at least some amount of things that feminism says are because of sexist oppression.
    Because he thinks these differences are real and important and give rise to different abilities and needs he sees feminists saying and acting as if they are not real or not important as potentially making a lot of people of both sexes unhappy. So I guess he sees feminism as ignoring a significant and important part of every person and he thinks people will be better off if this part of them is acknowledged.

    I hope that makes sense – if it doesn’t I can try to explain it better or in more detail.

  134. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus February 23, 2008 at 3:10 am |

    Lisa:

    I hope I’m not overstepping any bounds by addressing what you said in your last comment, but your explanation of your boyfriend’s reasoning is something I couldn’t help but notice. If I sound preachy, just say so. :)

    There’s a long history of using “scientific” arguments to justify social inequality. Oftentimes, people who say there are genetic and biochemical bases of certain social effects or outcomes are laying their preconceived notions on top of scientific findings and a deeper look shows that the evidence was not indicating what one thought it was. Since the aim of science is to produce reliable knowledge about nature, science has an epistemological status that gives scientific statements considerable rhetorical power. In other words, arguments can be made to be more convincing if they appear scientific, though they may not accurately reflect scientific support for the argument, if such support exists at all.

    The idea is to make something – like gender differences – both “natural” and “innate”, which in turn implies that to try to change said differences will 1) ultimately fail and 2) result in social disorder, unhappiness, etc. because we shouldn’t try to change how we are “really” supposed to be. Interestingly, no one ever makes an argument for one’s own inferiority in such cases. So what you often get is a sophisticated form of begging the question. Even if these kinds of arguments make the case that, say, women do something on the whole better than men due to some innate ability women have, it’s almost always some skill or ability that isn’t as valued or prestigious as something men can do “better”. So, stuff men do is important because men do it.

    Put another way, it is not merely coincidence that those who make scientific arguments about the biological basis of social hierarchy tend to find ways to put themselves (or the group they perceive themselves as belonging to) above others.

  135. SKM
    SKM February 23, 2008 at 1:42 pm |

    Lisa:
    Your explanation to Hector B. was very clear and concisely put. You are describing gender essentialism, an idea embraced by researchers such as Simon Baron-Cohen, Peter A. Lawrence, Steven Pinker, etc. there is a lot we could say about it here, but this thread is important and I don’t want to derail it. Linnaeus’ response is terrific though, and I second it.

    As a scientist, one of the things that annoys me most about gender essentialist “science” is that, for the most part, the evidence is over-interpreted or non-existent.

    Sex hormones are neuroactive, and it would surprise me if the brains of males and females were *not* different. How any anatomical/chemical differences may translate to behavioral and cognitive differences, however, is unclear from the evidence at this time.

    Meanwhile, the brains of left-and right-handed people are demonstrably different, with lefties being better at some spatial tasks. Why don’t we hear more about this in the media? Deborah Cameron spells it out in an excerpt fromThe Myth of Mars and Venus:

    Handedness, in short, is not significant for the organisation of human social affairs: it does not determine a person’s identity, role, or status in society. An account of how left-handers differ from right-handers would therefore lack one of the crucial ingredients that draw us to accounts of how women differ from men: it would not serve the purpose of justifying institutionalised social inequality by explaining it as the inevitable consequence of natural differences.

    Cameron’s response to Simon Baron-Cohen’s The Essential Difference
    is also a must read!

    I also like Rivers and Barnett’s The Difference Myth, in the Boston Globe; and Feminism 101’s FAQ, But men and women are born different…

    Searching around (say for “gender” and “crockus”) on Language Log also yields great discussions about the “science” of gender differences–they hate them some pseudo-science over there, I tell you what!

    Finally, the idea that feminism is incompatible with brain differences between sexes is a fallacy. “Equal” does not mean “identical” and feminists are not trying to claim it does.

    OK, /derail :)

  136. SKM
    SKM February 23, 2008 at 1:45 pm |

    NB: sorry if this double-posts. It did not appear, even as “awaiting moderation”, when I posted.
    Lisa:
    Your explanation to Hector B. was very clear and concisely put. You are describing gender essentialism, an idea embraced by researchers such as Simon Baron-Cohen, Peter A. Lawrence, Steven Pinker, etc. there is a lot we could say about it here, but this thread is important and I don’t want to derail it. Linnaeus’ response is terrific though, and I second it.

    As a scientist, one of the things that annoys me most about gender essentialist “science” is that, for the most part, the evidence is over-interpreted or non-existent.

    Sex hormones are neuroactive, and it would surprise me if the brains of males and females were *not* different. How any anatomical/chemical differences may translate to behavioral and cognitive differences, however, is unclear from the evidence at this time.

    Meanwhile, the brains of left-and right-handed people are demonstrably different, with lefties being better at some spatial tasks. Why don’t we hear more about this in the media? Deborah Cameron spells it out in an excerpt fromThe Myth of Mars and Venus:

    Handedness, in short, is not significant for the organisation of human social affairs: it does not determine a person’s identity, role, or status in society. An account of how left-handers differ from right-handers would therefore lack one of the crucial ingredients that draw us to accounts of how women differ from men: it would not serve the purpose of justifying institutionalised social inequality by explaining it as the inevitable consequence of natural differences.

    Cameron’s response to Simon Baron-Cohen’s The Essential Difference
    is also a must read!

    I also like Rivers and Barnett’s The Difference Myth, in the Boston Globe; and Feminism 101’s FAQ, But men and women are born different…

    Searching around (say for “gender” and “crockus”) on Language Log also yields great discussions about the “science” of gender differences–they hate them some pseudo-science over there, I tell you what!

    Finally, the idea that feminism is incompatible with brain differences between sexes is a fallacy. “Equal” does not mean “identical” and feminists are not trying to claim it does.

    OK, /derail :)

  137. SKM
    SKM February 23, 2008 at 2:41 pm |

    Lisa:
    Your explanation to Hector B. was very clear and concisely put. You are describing gender essentialism, an idea embraced by researchers such as Simon Baron-Cohen, Peter A. Lawrence, Steven Pinker, etc. there is a lot we could say about it here, but this thread is important and I don’t want to derail it. Linnaeus’ response is terrific though, and I second it.

    As a scientist, one of the things that annoys me most about gender essentialist “science” is that, for the most part, the evidence is over-interpreted or non-existent. Worse, normally rational scientists accept it because it confirms their unconscious biases. These scientists may mean well—while I agree with Peter Lawrence that the sciences should be more open to different ways of thinking and acting, I don’t think we need invoke essentialist ideas to do this.

    Sex hormones are neuroactive, and it would surprise me if the brains of males and females were *not* different. How any anatomical/chemical differences may translate to behavioral and cognitive differences, however, is unclear from the evidence at this time.

    Meanwhile, the brains of left-and right-handed people are demonstrably different, with lefties being better at some spatial tasks. Why don’t we hear more about this in the media? Deborah Cameron spells it out in an excerpt fromThe Myth of Mars and Venus:

    Handedness, in short, is not significant for the organisation of human social affairs: it does not determine a person’s identity, role, or status in society. An account of how left-handers differ from right-handers would therefore lack one of the crucial ingredients that draw us to accounts of how women differ from men: it would not serve the purpose of justifying institutionalised social inequality by explaining it as the inevitable consequence of natural differences.

    Cameron’s response to Simon Baron-Cohen’s The Essential Difference
    is also a must read!

    I also like Rivers and Barnett’s The Difference Myth, in the Boston Globe; and Feminism 101’s FAQ, But men and women are born different…

    Searching around (say for “gender” and “crockus”) on Language Log also yields great discussions about the “science” of gender differences–they hate them some pseudo-science over there, I tell you what!

    Finally, the too-common idea that feminism is incompatible with brain differences between sexes is a fallacy. “Equal” does not mean “identical” and feminists are not trying to claim it does.

    OK, /derail :)

  138. Roxie
    Roxie February 24, 2008 at 12:34 am |

    Man, this sounds like a great idea of a new blogging segment…like “Ask A Feminist Thursday” or something. Where we could bounce off problems like this to each other weekly or something.

  139. SKM
    SKM February 24, 2008 at 2:03 pm |

    OK, horribly embarrassed about the multi-posting. Sorry; I won’t do that again!

  140. elmo
    elmo February 24, 2008 at 3:37 pm |

    This thread seems a little on the “How do I make him think the way I want him to think?” side, rather than the “How do I talk about my reactions to the world around me from my gendered perspective with someone I love who may not share this perspective?” side. Men are thinking human beings. The game should not be to take one prefabricated module out of their brains and replace it with another. Relationships should be about the EXCHANGE of ideas; in other words, not a one-way street.

  141. Ursula L
    Ursula L February 24, 2008 at 3:38 pm |

    I explained to him that expecting the woman to take the man’s name is sexist and offensive to me, and he agreed that it was indeed sexist, but that he liked the tradition anyway because it “symbolized making a family.”

    On this one, I’ll go with the others who have suggested him using your name.

    On the face, it addresses both concerns, pefectly. You want to keep your own name, and you do. He wants the family to all use the same name, and it does. Win-win situation.

    Of course that argument is often one that means “I know you want to keep your name, but you should take mine, anyways” in which case, you have a separate issue to address. But at least you’ll be addressing the real issue (that he wants you to take his name) and not the excuse (that the family should all have the same name.)

  142. Lisa
    Lisa February 24, 2008 at 5:56 pm |

    SKM and Linnaeus:

    I showed my boyfriend your comments and he said in principle he agrees with most of your points.
    I don’t want to derail things into a for/against argument on essentialism but he said he thought the links SKM gave were objecting to it more as a binary/social argument (men have some trait and women do not, so men are better) rather than an argument just about differences in trait distributions, so he wasn’t sure if you’re on exactly the same page as him.
    Anyway, thanks for your responses.

  143. mythago
    mythago February 24, 2008 at 8:14 pm |

    This is about living with the good guys that basically are feminist on an equal basis, isn’t it?

    Thaniell, a guy who is feminist, basically or otherwise, will not want to make sexist or demeaning comments. He will want to know if he’s said or done something sexist even if he did so unthinkingly, or if he didn’t realize it was sexist/hurtful. He won’t put his vision of himself as Mr. Special Feminist Guy over actually being a feminist.

    You’re right that it’s no fun having to think over everything you say. For example, it’s really not fun having to think about whether it’s OK to call your “basically feminist” guy friends, or husband, or boyfriend on a sexist comment, trying to figure out whether he’s going to try and bully you with the can’t-you-take-a-joke routine, whether it will hurt your relationship, whether it’s *that* important to speak up or let it go, whether if you let it go this time it will get worse and he’ll pout that you didn’t mention something earlier, and so on.

    (Sarah, the answer is “Only two, but you have to slice them real thin.” Then, after the horrified pause, you express shock and say “Geeziz, guys, it’s a JOKE. Where’s your sense of humor?” It’s amazing how fast they backpedal.)

  144. mythago
    mythago February 24, 2008 at 8:20 pm |

    Lisa, I hope I don’t come off sounding like I’m lecturing here. My perspective is that I’m a professional arguer (I’m a lawyer in civil litigation).

    Being better at rhetoric and constructing logical arguments–or at least logical-sounding arguments–is not a sign that one is “smarter”, that one’s arguments are right or that one’s point of view is the correct one. It just means that one is better at making arguments and being persuasive. And for a person who is more interested in winning an argument and being right than getting to the “correct answer”, there are all kinds of rhetorical tricks, games and fallacies to trip other people up, or at least to persuade oneself that one is never wrong.

    I can’t recommend enough that you pick up a couple of books: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin, and The Art of Deception by Nicholas Capaldi. If you are really feeling out-argued and out-smarted, then these will give you some basic tools to learn how to express yourself better — and not just to your boyfriend. I assume he won’t mind, because if he’s right, then he’ll still be right; at worst you’ll be able to engage him in a more challenging and thoughtful argument. Right?

  145. Kevin
    Kevin February 25, 2008 at 3:45 pm |

    Just a note to Rika:

    It might well be that your boyfriend on crutches was not overly concerned with the roles of sexes, but with his own physical condition. After a knee injury put me on crutches for months, one of the more difficult things to deal with was the pity I received from friends, family and strangers. Generally, disabled people do not rely on the charity of others to function. You had to explain to him that “he was pretty much implying that I was more incapable of holding a door than he was”? You were pretty much implying that he wasn’t able to function for himself anymore.

    You know that he knows you’re capable of opening a door. He doesn’t know if you consider him too feeble to get around.

    Also nice use of the word “cripple”. That’s really nice.

    I think this is a very important and relevent topic. But some of the comments about deprogramming or controlling another person’s behaviour is a little much. You can encourage someone to change and educate them but you can’t force someone to be or think a certain way, even if it IS correct.

  146. mythago
    mythago February 25, 2008 at 5:15 pm |

    Kevin, why is holding a door open for a person on crutches a loathed expression of “pity”?

    It’s true that you can’t reprogram a person. But you can walk away from them if they make it clear they’ll take their privilege and sense of entitlement over being a decent human being.

  147. XtinaS
    XtinaS February 25, 2008 at 7:25 pm |

    Kevin:

    You were pretty much implying that he wasn’t able to function for himself anymore.

    Without being Rika, I can pretty much state outright that “anymore” isn’t quite the word to be using.  Unless he’s on crutches permanently, which I didn’t get from reading her comment.  Thus it’s more that he’s not able to easily open doors while on crutches, for the time being.  Big ol’ difference.

    That’s leaving aside how on earth you think “Let me hold the door open for you, since you’re the one on crutches” is an expression of pity.  I’m inclined to believe it comes from the whole “I am an island; I need help from no one!” mindset I see around.

  148. Feministe » Feministe Feedback: Talking to Kids About Homophobia

    [...] that the last two reader-response threads went really well (see: Raising Feminist Daughters and Talking to Your Partner About Sexism). I’ll try to do it weekly, although I think it’ll depend more on when questions for [...]

  149. leah
    leah March 3, 2008 at 9:09 pm |

    In addition to all the wonderful suggestions so far, I’d like to add this: make him a part of your journey. What I mean is, we as women experience sexism every day, probably multiple times a day. When it ticks you off, vent to him! Bring him shopping with you, so he sees how differently you’re treated. Show him how the patriarchy hurts you. He (presumably) loves you and doesn’t want to see you hurt, so this is a great tool. This worked wonders in my relationship with my husband, perhaps even more so than simply pointing out individual acts by him. It opened his eyes to the system in which we live and how it hurts someone he loves. For example, I have shared with him my frustrations with pants sizing, and how unlike men’s pants, our sizing is very ambiguous and has to do more with how the manufacturer believes women should be proportioned than reality. Once, I was talking with a mutual (male) friend about not liking to carry a purse, and he said I shouldn’t; I should just put my wallet and my cell phone in my pocket. I said, they’d never fit; I have hips. When he started to argue my husband jumped in with a tirade about how sexist the fashion industry is and women can’t even get good clothes in this society, etc etc. I know pants isn’t the most pressing feminist concern but it’s the first example that popped into my mind :)

  150. MaryAnne
    MaryAnne April 2, 2008 at 1:41 pm |

    Yes. Maybe if you see a psychotherapist (not a psychiatrist), and you and your husband do a lot of hard work, he can change. It has to be pointed out to him to change his bad habits and thoughts. My ex-husband didn’t get it, and he blamed me for everything. Thus, I am now happily married to another man. But I had thought something was very wrong with me, by attracting those types of men, but I got it really clear that it wasn’t me. A relief. Your life will be a roller coaster ride if you don’t get professional advice. It’s as important to find the right therapist as it is to find a solution your husband will accept. Ask your friends and maybe even your family doctor can assist in find a good therapist. If your husband gets violent, run, don’t walk, and don’t put this off. Because he will resist this effort on your part at first. Possibly, he’ll sabatoge the idea of a therapist. A few books to read “Men Who Hate Women, And Women Who Love Them” will open your eyes to your husband and yourself. Big time. If he has alcohol issues, you might want to read “Adult Children of Alcohoilics” and “Fear of Intimacy.” All of these are in paperback now and not expensive at all. They helped me. But realize it’s going to take lots of work and changing on both parts toi recognize what’sd acceptable and what’s not.

    God bless you and good fortune. You may write to me any time if you wish. MaryAnne

    MaryAnne

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